While Rwanda still has some way to go when it comes to providing clean water to all its citizens, it is relatively rich in water resources. Yet much of the infrastructure to harness them still remains to be constructed, and the topography makes that a difficult task.
The Eastern Province is one the main areas where the population is still under-provided with water. Yet with vast valleys and the Akagera National park, the province has many lakes and rivers, such as Lake Muhazi, the Akagera River and others.
The lack of clean and accessible water in the East Rwanda increases the spread of diseases such as diarrhea, cholera, and typhoid. "These are prevailing diseases in this region, we receive an average of 24 cases daily suffering of either diarrhea, typhoid, or other diseases linked to lack of clean drinking water," the head of Rukara health Center (Kayonza district) told this paper.
These diseases, although curable and preventable, are potentially deadly and in any case disabling to people.
The water problem also affects education. According to recent research by WHO, about 28% of the population in the country, mainly women and children, walk nearly two hours every day to access clean water. "In this area, many children often miss part of their classes to fetch water before going to school," said Agnes Nyinawumuntu, a resident in Rukara sector in Kayonza whose kids have to walk three hours to fetch water to the nearest marshland (Kayongo in Murundi sector).
Nyinawumuntu adds that as a result, the children don't get enough time to review their lessons as they must repeat their task in the evening. "This greatly affects their performances," she stated, adding that it is therefore hard for kids, especially in primary schools, to pass the national exam.
"We receive an average of 24 cases daily suffering of either diarrhea, typhoid, or other diseases linked to lack of clean drinking water."
On the other hand, with agriculture still main source of revenue for nearly 80% of the population, many farmers depend on the availability of water for irrigating their fields. Walking four hours to get one 20-liter jerry can of water for the household is laborious enough, but to retrieve enough water to supply fields of crops is nearly impossible economically. "I had to walk kilometers and kilometers for water and rain is rare in this area, which is why I can't afford to have a garden at home," one resident says.
However, according to EWSA deputy DG in charge of water and sanitation, James Sano, the provision of water in many sectors of Eastern province's district has been increased. "We have increased our supply of clean water in the East, aided by different partners."
Last week, World Vision Rwanda, handed over the extension of Cyatokwe water supply located in Kayonza district (Rukara sector) to the district's administration. WVR has supported the extension to the community of Rwimishinya cell (Rukara sector) with a 14 km length pipeline, sixteen water points with 32 water taps and one distribution reservoir of 100 m3. The beneficiaries had never enjoyed clean water close to them in this way.
EWSA's Sano said at the official handover that the utility company will contribute to extending the water supply system. "We are going to work on extending to network to the neighboring communities (Murundi sector, etc.) who have similar water-related problems," he said.
According to the World Health Organization, only 65% of the Rwandan population has access to clean water. The other 35% gets their water from unsafe sources or must travel long distances to access clean water.